“The conversations that are the most curative are simultaneously the ones that are most difficult and most dangerous.” – Dr. Jordan Peterson
A Google Engineer, 28 year-old James Damore, wrote a memo titled Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber – How Bias Clouds Our Thinking About Diversity and Inclusion. For that act, he was first castigated and then fired. You can find his full, unedited, memo – complete with charts that are conveniently missing from most sources – here.
Damore’s memo contained three primary contentions:
- Google’s Corporate Culture contains Leftist Biases which prevent open and honest discussion
- Trait differences between men and women may explain some differences in the Tech Gender-Gap at Google
- Google could employ non-discriminatory techniques to close the Tech Gender-Gap
The memo is very thoughtful, well written – and perfectly reasonable. I urge you to read it in its entirety.
Immediately, calls for his firing reverberated throughout the halls of Google. On August 4, 2017, Danielle Brown, Google’s “Vice President of Diversity, Integrity & Governance” – not kidding, that’s her real title – released an ominous statement about the memo:
Part of building an open, inclusive environment means fostering a culture in which those with alternative views, including different political views, feel safe sharing their opinions. But that discourse needs to work alongside the principles of equal employment found in our Code of Conduct, policies, and anti-discrimination laws.
On Monday, the memo fell into broader circulation and calls for Damore’s firing intensified. They were partially answered later that day when Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai sent out his own memo – and announced he was cutting his vacation short to return in order to discuss the matter – and hurt feelings – with employees. Google sent out a tweet with both a statement and Pichai’s memo:
— Google (@Google) August 8, 2017
I struggled a bit with the irony of Google’s statement:
“Our co-workers shouldn’t have to worry that each time they open their mouths to speak…”
Uh. Yeah. That…
— Jeff Carlson, CFA (@themarketswork) August 8, 2017
The memo from Pichai hinted at – but did not confirm – Damore’s firing. That happened a bit later, ironically through a Bloomberg report.
I have no issue with Google’s underlying legal right to fire James Damore. Google should be able to hire and fire whomever they want.
But that doesn’t mean I think their reasoning correct, their actions justified or their corporate stance a moral one.
I find the blatant hypocrisy a bit hard to swallow as well.
Nor does Damore’s firing constitute a First Amendment violation – the First Amendment does not apply against companies, organizations or individuals.
But it does represent yet another attack on our National Culture of Free Speech.
The politicization of everything continues to gain momentum. Major corporations – and all universities – are ingraining a political ideology into their culture. Progressivism is required branding for any good tech company.
Companies strive for diversity – and fire or ostracize all who have diverse views. That stance is hurting our nation – and will ultimately hurt the participating companies as well.
Many, myself included, pointed out the irony of firing someone for having differing opinions – in the name of diversity. And of course, Damore’s firing is obvious proof of his claims – that Google’s Leftist Culture leaves no room for dissenting opinions.
We should promote diversity by firing anyone who has a differing viewpoint.
— Jeff Carlson, CFA (@themarketswork) August 8, 2017
Google: Women improve workplaces because they are different from men.
Memo Guy: Women are different, on average, from men.
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) August 8, 2017
Shapiro’s a lot funnier than I am. Has a way of using humor to cut to the heart of an issue as well.
The MSM took Google’s side on the matter and began referring to any who thought the firing unjustified as “Alt-Right” – as can be seen in this Newsweek article.
Shapiro was one of those branded as Alt-Right. He’s actually quite thoughtful – and a great debater. He’s conservative. But he’s not Alt-Right.
That’s been another tactic of the MSM – label anyone who’s conservative as “Alt-Right” – as a means to instantly de-legitimize their position.
Personally, I think of myself as more of an American Nationalist – one who embraces the concept that our Constitution is superior to International law. But I digress.
The tech website Gizmodo called the memo a screed.
A disinformation campaign was established by the MSM. CNN ran a segment claiming that Damore was saying women are unfit for technology positions. Which he didn’t. Here’s the CNN segment:
It’s pretty obvious CNN didn’t bother to actually read the memo. The responses were swift and consistent:
CNN just teased a segment by saying the Google memo said women weren’t “biologically fit” for tech.
NO NO NO. Read it. Please God, read it.
— Alex Griswold (@HashtagGriswold) August 8, 2017
The media are just straight up lying, intentionally, about this Google memo. If you have to lie, you’re doing it wrong.
— Mollie (@MZHemingway) August 8, 2017
Here’s what Damore really said:
I’m not saying that all men differ from all women in the following ways or that these differences are “just.” I’m simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership. Many of these differences are small and there’s significant overlap between men and women, so you can’t say anything about an individual given these population level distributions.
I’m also not saying that we should restrict people to certain gender roles; I’m advocating for quite the opposite: treat people as individuals, not as just another member of their group (tribalism).
Did I mention the memo’s author, James Damore, holds a Ph.D. in Systems Biology from Harvard?
Several scientists also came forth to note that Damore is factually correct in an article titled The Google Memo: Four Scientists Respond. Unsurprisingly, these folks didn’t make it onto CNN.
Here are some highlights from Damore’s memo. He opens with this statement:
I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don’t endorse using stereotypes. When addressing the gap in representation in the population, we need to look at population level differences in distributions. If we can’t have an honest discussion about this, then we can never truly solve the problem. Psychological safety is built on mutual respect and acceptance, but unfortunately our culture of shaming and misrepresentation is disrespectful and unaccepting of anyone outside its echo chamber.
He provides an Executive Summary:
- Google’s political bias has equated the freedom from offense with psychological safety, but shaming into silence is the antithesis of psychological safety.
- This silencing has created an ideological echo chamber where some ideas are too sacred to be honestly discussed.
- The lack of discussion fosters the most extreme and authoritarian elements of this ideology.
- Extreme: all disparities in representation are due to oppression
- Authoritarian: we should discriminate to correct for this oppression
- Differences in distributions of traits between men and women may in part explain why we don’t have 50% representation of women in tech and leadership.
- Discrimination to reach equal representation is unfair, divisive, and bad for business.
Then a quick Backdrop:
People generally have good intentions, but we all have biases which are invisible to us. Thankfully, open and honest discussion with those who disagree can highlight our blind spots and help us grow, which is why I wrote this document. Google has several biases and honest discussion about these biases is being silenced by the dominant ideology. What follows is by no means the complete story, but it’s a perspective that desperately needs to be told at Google.
His perspective of Google’s Biases:
At Google, we talk so much about unconscious bias as it applies to race and gender, but we rarely discuss our moral biases. Political orientation is actually a result of deep moral preferences and thus biases. Considering that the overwhelming majority of the social sciences, media, and Google lean left, we should critically examine these prejudices:
Left Biases Right Biases
Compassion for the weak Respect for the strong/Authority
Disparities are due to injustice Disparities are natural and just
Humans are inherently cooperative Humans are inherently competitive
Change is good (unstable) Change is dangerous (stable)
Neither side is 100% correct and both viewpoints are necessary for a functioning society or, in this case, company. A company too far to the right may be slow to react, overly hierarchical, and untrusting of others. In contrast, a company too far to the left will constantly be changing (deprecating much loved services), over diversify its interests (ignoring or being ashamed of its core business), and overly trust its employees and competitors.
Only facts and reason can shed light on these biases, but when it comes to diversity and inclusion, Google’s left bias has created a politically correct monoculture that maintains its hold by shaming dissenters into silence. This silence removes any checks against encroaching extremist and authoritarian policies. For the rest of this document, I’ll concentrate on the extreme stance that all differences in outcome are due to differential treatment and the authoritarian element that’s required to actually discriminate to create equal representation.
He provides this small disclaimer:
I may be biased and only see evidence that supports my viewpoint. In terms of political biases, I consider myself a classical liberal and strongly value individualism and reason. I’d be very happy to discuss any of the document further and provide more citations.
He closes with this statement:
I hope it’s clear that I’m not saying that diversity is bad, that Google or society is 100% fair, that we shouldn’t try to correct for existing biases, or that minorities have the same experience of those in the majority. My larger point is that we have an intolerance for ideas and evidence that don’t fit a certain ideology. I’m also not saying that we should restrict people to certain gender roles; I’m advocating for quite the opposite: treat people as individuals, not as just another member of their group (tribalism).
And provides these suggestions (I do not include his subpoints):
- De-moralize diversity
- Stop alienating conservatives
- Confront Google’s biases
- Stop restricting programs and classes to certain genders or races
- Have an open and honest discussion about the costs and benefits of our diversity programs
- Focus on psychological safety, not just race/gender diversity
- De-emphasize empathy
- Prioritize intention
- Be open about the science of human nature
- Reconsider making Unconscious Bias training mandatory for promo committees
I have intentionally provided these excerpts so you may see Damore’s approach for yourself. His thoughtfulness, honesty and forthrightness are not being portrayed accurately in the media.
Nor was Google’s response in any way balanced or fair-minded. But it was sadly predictable.
Once again, I encourage you to read the memo for yourself. It’s worth your time.
It’s too bad that Google didn’t read it a bit more thoroughly. And honestly consider why the memo was written in the first place.
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